Abingdon Air & Country Show 2021 - Cody Froggatt
The horrors of the last eighteen months have taken their toll on us all. For many in the aviation world the lack of events and socialising has been hard hitting. In many cases it's seen many shows fall by the wayside, with the government restrictions due to the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thankfully the Abingdon Air and Country show, which was postponed from the 12th June 2021, was able to go ahead on the 11th September 2021. Returning for the first time since 2019, the former airfield of Royal Air force Abingdon, now Dalton Barracks played host to two days of aviation action.
Abingdon Fayre first started in 2000 as a small fete. In the years since then the show has grown in stature. Attendances have increased, and at the 2009 show there were over 10,000 people. For many years the show was known simply as the Abingdon Fayre, but in 2007 the show's title changed to Abingdon Air & Country Show to reflect the show's content more accurately. Although held on a military establishment, the show is a civilian event and is organised entirely by volunteers, with proceeds being donated to a local charity.
The show itself is deep within the traditional country fayre roots, classic car displays, steam engines both locomotive and traction and local variety acts. Though it could be said the aviation side of Abingdon is it's major pull, these certainly add a different flavour compared to current air shows and this certainly does draw a unique mixture of people.
That said, for being perceived as a smaller event for the UK scene, Neil and his team certainly pull in a wide variety of different airframes from across the UK and at previous shows from the European scene too. This year's show saw the likes of B-17 Flying Fortress 'Sally B', 28 Sqn RAF Chinook and 'Historic Helicopters' Westland Sea King all within the flying program. This along with the many different types of aircraft flying in made for an interesting show indeed.
The pre-show started on the Friday day and night as Threshold.Aero
and their Touchdown Club took over the airfield. Being a member myself I was invited down free of charge along with all the other members to hangout, talk aviation and photograph the arrivals for the show. Now, Threshold are one of the best organisers for night shoots around the UK and I'd highly recommend considering joining the Touchdown Club, purely on the basis of the access we had at Abingdon on the Friday, and having the unique opportunity to shoot the aircraft as we did. The Touchdown Club is £35 a year and allows for access to the event, to book 24 hour before public sale, as well as a whole host of discounts and gifts.
Once the sun began to set, the night shoot event itself started. Seven different airframes took part in the shoot, five of which did an engine run, Rich Goodwin's Pitts S2S Specials undertook engine runs as well as being static, the Westland Wasp of 'Navy wings' also ran, as did the 'Historic Army Flight' Auster and a De Havilland Chipmunk. For me the two highlights from the shoot, which didn't even run, were the Yakovlev Yak-3 and the B-17 'Sally B' Flying Fortress. These were something to behold, especially 'Sally B', and this was her first ever night shoot (hard to believe I know). As ever, the Threshold Team were perfect and the shoot went off without a hitch, my thanks to the Threshold Team for their hospitality and please do check out their events coming up through the rest of this and next year.
The Saturday saw the show itself, with many different acts arriving in the morning of the show, with the likes of 'Historic Helicopters' Westland Wessex and Sea King and Peter Teichman's 'Hanger 11' Russian Spitfire both arriving mid-morning much to my delight. The flying display opened with the 'Historic Army Aircraft Flight' (Beaver, Auster, Sioux, Scout) which performed an interesting display with the fixed wings flying around the Sioux and Scout (really cool to see these two in a flying program). They put on a real photographers display with some good angles to shoot at. George Bacon and the team have done themselves proud keeping these aircraft alive and flying and let's hope they do so for many years to come.
Once completed and landed, they were followed up by the 'Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's' Spitfire Mk.XVI (TE311). She performed the usual BBMF display, interesting to see TE311 displaying once again. She was followed by the Yakovlev Yak-50 which flew a high dynamic display with some great photo opportunities with some magical top sides by the pilot. This was followed by Robert Tyrell's P51D Mustang 'Miss Helen', I do have a massive soft spot for the Mustang from its shape and design, through to the screaming merlin engine, there's not a lot I can say that's not already out there about this icon of the sky. However, that said, this display was perfect from the low level take off to the number of topsides that was put on for us photographers.
'Miss Helen' was followed up by James Brown's Hawker Hurricane Mk.1 (R4118), again much like Miss Helen, it's always a pleasure to see a Hurricane in the flying display, this along with 'Warbird Flights' Hawker Hurricane Mk.1 (P2902) performed a superb display which was great to see and gave some interesting silhouette opportunities for myself. R4118 was followed up by the two main highlights from this year's flying program, firstly the 'Hanger 11 collection's' Spitfire 'Karina' flown by Peter Teichman. For the last two years since this old girl was revealed, I've wanted to see her live and flying and this didn't disappoint one bit. Peter as ever performed the aircraft to its best abilities with topsides, loops, and rolls which were achieved quite stunningly and beautifully. This aircraft is a must to see for any enthusiast and I'm deeply looking forward to seeing her again at a show sometime soon. 'Karina' was followed up by the ever popular Rich Goodwin in his S2S Pitts Special along with an Audi R8. This display was something totally unique with chases and low, high speed passes, Rich once again has brought something totally unique to the British air show circuit.
Then was the turn of the gracious 'big yellow bird', the Westland Sea King. What else could be said about Historic Helicopters that's not already out there, the fact that in 2021 we've got the opportunity to see this old girl up and flying is beyond anything I could believe. It's a pleasure to see her flying again, and much like 'Karina', it's a must see for anyone wanting to get a proper old school flying fix.
This can also be said for the Westland Wasp that followed up the Sea King, mixed in with a Yak 3 departing for home. 'Navy Wings' really haven't had much luck, with their Hawker Sea Fury (VX281) being written off in early April this year. The Wasp put on a quaint and somewhat cute display for the crowd, and with hope, 'Navy Wings' bounces back stronger with more airframes to be added and returning to flight in the near future.
The Royal Air Force segment was next with three flypasts from three very different acts. Firstly, with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team's Red Arrows which flew over crowd directly which isn't usual at a show, but I'm not complaining as it allows for the opportunity of unique angles of the 'Reds'. This was followed up by 29 Sqn's Eurofighter Typhoon flown by Flight Lieutenant James Sainty, performing two flat high speed passes in an unfortunate grey Typhoon instead of the 'BlackJack' jet. Finishing off the segment was 28 Sqn's Boeing Chinook which performed a slow pass along the crowd line.
Once the Chinook had departed the flying area it was the turn of B-17G Flying Fortress 'Sally B'. My god was she displayed, flown as if she was stolen, I've never in my time seen the old girl displayed quite like that. Seeing her flown and thrown around the sky like this was quite amazing indeed. This display had everything you could want topside; bomber door passes and of course the tribute pass for all those fallen airmen. After 'Sally B' finished her display, she departed along with 'Miss Helen' back to Duxford. This left 'The Blades Display Team' to finish off the show.
However, for many of us photographers, this wasn't the end as we were treated to a mass departure of all the remaining aircraft which included a Westland Wessex and Sea King, pure magic to seeing both flying in formation together.
My overall thoughts of Abingdon are positive, it's a quaint airfield with a lovely, dedicated team working on this show. Both the night shoot and the show itself went off without a hitch and had some interesting acts. Would I attend again? I would think it's only the beginning for me attending Abingdon and I deeply look forward to next year's line up.
Article & Photographs by Cody Froggatt.